This is suppose to be wordless Wednesday on my blog..........a day when I post photos only. However, I am too filled with emotion to not write today.
I just got back from taking ButterCupp to the Vet where we had to have her cleaned out after losing calf, evidently sometime when we were away for four days a couple of weeks ago. We came home to find what looked like afterbirth hanging from her but no sign of an aborted calf. We can only assume that a wild animal must have dragged the aborted calf off the property while we were gone. When Butter did not clean herself out properly we gave her anitibiotics but it was evident that we needed some Lutylase and a vet's help to get the her cleaned out properly. Butter is dry (not in milk) and we have no guarantee that she will breed back. The bad news is that as farmers, there comes a time when you have to cull cows when they are no longer being productive and Butter has reached that point in her life.
Butter has not had a good history with us. She was sold to me as a four year old cow with no health problems but every vet that has ever looked at her has said that she was much, much older than what was represented to me at the time of sale. In other words, she was culled out of a dairy because she was having problems and I inherited those problems when I bought her. In spite of this, Butter has been a very special cow to me and we have been through a lot together. Unable to make the decision at this time to take her to the butcher (which is what happens to cull cows), my wonderful husband suggested that we take her down to the farm where we have our beef cows and let her live there for a while. There is a chance she might breed to the Angus bull with time and be able to carry a calf to term. If she does not, then we will eventually have to make the difficult choice of what to do with her.
As she made the move today from our little dairy herd to the beef herd with a future that is not sure, I could not help but reflect on our time together.
Looking back through my blog, I am posting some of the highlights of the time that ButterCupp and I have spent together. It seems like there have been mostly hard times with Butter, but it's been worth it all for those joyous occasions that we have also shared. From my August 4th, 2008 entry:
I had brought my cows in to lock them up so that they could be vet checked today, but the vet had an emergency and was not able to make it to our house. So, I sat and watched the girls eating their hay with which I had enticed them. These are my new girls and only one of them was friendly when I got them. I sat on top of the gate, and as the cows finished eating, one by one, they came up and smelled me. (It's a cow thing.) I was able to rub them all and scratch their ears. And Butter Cupp, whom I could not even touch a few weeks ago gave me a cow kiss! Now for those of you who don't know what a cow kiss is, I will explain. Cow's in a herd will groom each other by using their tongues to lick the sides, ears, face, etc. of another cow. You see mother's doing this to their babies, as well as cattle in a herd grooming each other. When the cows begin accepting a human as one of them, they will often lick you. That is a "cow kiss"! So, Butter gave me the sweetest kiss and I was able to touch her sides and feel her baby moving inside of her.
And here is the account from December 7, 2008 of our holding out hope for Butter when even the vets said that there was no hope and that we should put her down. This took place just 2.5 months after my son's sudden and unexpected death, so you can imagine the emotions that I was dealing with at the time with so recently losing my son and then dealing with two sick cows:
This has been an emotionally and physically exhausting, stressful week for me. I posted last Sunday about treating Maya for milk fever. I wish that I could say that was the end of our troubles. However, when I went to milk the cows on Monday morning, Butter Cupp looked at me with big, alert eyes and tried to get up so that she could join the other bovines already eating their hay. She couldn't get up. I did a mental check list to see if I thought she had milk fever, and I just really did not think that was the case. I called Mike and he came and looked at her and agreed with me. However, we didn't know what was wrong or how to treat her, so I had to call the vet out.
The vet saw that she was down and just assumed that she had milk fever. I told him that I didn't think she did, but he insisted that some cal/mag given intraveinously would fix her right up. He administered the calcium and magnesium and even through in some dextrose for good measure when she still wouldn't get up. He then insisted that she was just being stubborn and was sure she would get up later. Afternoon came and she still could not get up.
After time, she began to slide down the hill in the field with her head down the hill. I called Mike in tears and he and my father in law came and got her sitting upright again. However, they could not get her to stand up.
I was worried sick about her and we covered her with a blanket and took turns checking on her during the night to make sure she didn't go over because we knew she would die if she got stretched out flat during the night.
The next day the vet called and when he found that she would not get up and it had been over 24 hours and he could not figure out what was wrong with her, he pretty much gave up and thought she would die.
I was devastated but I was not ready to give up. At this point I knew that it was time to contact the lady who was suppose to buy Butter and let her know what was going on. I could not with good conscience sell Butter to her knowing that she was having problems, even if we had a full recovery. Diane was so gracious and kind and understanding about the situation, but I felt terrible.
Tuesday was spent taking food and water to Butter and tending to Maya who was also still sick. At first, I thought that maybe something had caused them both to get sick and began to look at the grain and other things that might have caused toxic poisons. I had the grain tested and it was fine and all the other cows were fine, so it could not have been something that they ate. As I began to search for answers and analyze each cows symptoms, I realized that they were obviously suffering from two different things.
Mike and Marcus (Mike's dad) brought the front end loader to the house and got a strap and tried to raise Butter but she still couldn't stand. They were able to at least move her to a fenced in area behind the barn where I could take better care of her. We then began to look for a hip lift so that we could raise her off the ground. It was very important that we get her on her feet, as it was her only chance of survival.
Finally, Thursday, we were able to locate a hip lift at the dairy where we got Sam, Charlie and Midnight. We were able to get Butter lifted up but what a scarey experience for humans and bovine alike. She didn't understand what we were doing and she began to swing around and thrash frantically. I was terrified that she was going to get hurt or, even worse, someone was going to get hurt. We actually had to use the hip lift as well as a strap around her front to get her up and she could not stand when we took the hip lift off. Her right front leg looked swollen at the knee, but we were not sure if that was because she had injured it or if it became swollen
Friday we lifted her twice and she was able to stand unassisted.
Saturday, we lifted her three times and she was able to stand unassisted and walk around but could not get up by herself once she would lie down again. She would stand for several hours at a time.
Sunday afternoon, I looked out of the window at lunch time and saw that she has risen and was standing on her own! I had a happy, shouting, "Thank you, Jesus" time and gave Mike a big kiss for all his help with her.
This morning we had a little set-back and she was not able to get up on her own again. Mike had to use the hip lift to get her to her feet. Later during the day, she managed to get up on her own several times.
I have spent the last week checking on the cows repeatedly and carrying buckets and buckets of warm water sweetened with corn syrup or brown sugar to them to give them extra energy. I have been feeding them as much as they want of the very best hay that we have and giving them extra rations of grain to try to help them build up their body condition.
Maya seems to be greatly improved and Butter seems to be improving slowly. Someday soon, I am hoping my stress level lessens so I can get some much needed emotional and physical rest.
And here was one of the joyful posts from February 9, 2009:
Some of you may remember that my cow, Butter Cupp, went down a while back. We never did find out what was wrong with her, but we suspect an injury of some sort. After lifting her with a hip lift and slowly nursing her back to health, she has been going strong every since. We were not even able to milk her for a few days because we could not get her up. She did not develop mastitis and has gone from almost nothing back to 3-4 gallons a day. She really is a miracle girl. Today, just topped everything. I had the vet out for a routine type visit and while he was here, I had him palpate Butter. I assumed that being short bred when she went down, that she probably lost the calf. However, the Vet confirmed today that she is about three months pregnant!
From August 21st, 2009 here was the climax of our journey together:
During this time of caring for Butter in such an intimate way, she and I became very bonded. She trusted me and I really fell in love with her. Imagine how thrilled I was when I had the vet out one day and he palpated her and said that she was indeed pregnant. She had not been with a bull since before her "down" period. It was a miracle that she had not slipped the calf during the whole ordeal.
Now fast forward to this week. For some reason, I have had a really hard time and have struggled with being really down. I think, it is probably because I am fast approaching the one year anniversary of Josh's death. As the seasons change, we will enter fall. What was always the favorite season for both Josh and myself, will now hold new challenges for me. As much as I try to focus on the beauty of the years that I got to spend with Josh, my loss sometimes overwhelms me.
Anyone who frequents this blog knows that rain reminds me of my son and for the last two evenings, as the night has come closing in, there has been an evening shower and then a beautiful rainbow at the end of it. Last night I saw the rainbow for the second night in a row and later as I stood outside in the dusk of the evening with my cows and allowed the big tears to finally come streaming down my face, I began to sob and asked God to please, please give me something to hold onto and something to encourage me because I was sad. It was then that I had the thought that the rainbows in the sky had been from God.
Later, I received a message from two different people about rainbows. One lady wrote and said that her young daughter always called the rainbow "God's Promise" and the other message came from my friend, Diane, the lady I told you about above that was going to buy Butter from me. The message is posted on this blog under the picture of the rainbow and simply states "His Promise".
As I stood and contemplated "His Promise" last night, the thought came to me that if Butter calved and it was a heifer, I would name it "Promise". My little "Promise" would be God's gift to me to help encourage me through this rough time I was having.
And today, shortly after noon, I was present as my Miracle cow who was never expected to survive gave birth to her heifer calf. (Anyone who reads my blog knows that heifer calves are rare on this farm as we usually get bull calves.) Her official name on her registration as a percentage cow with AMJA will be PeanutButter Cupp as her father is Peanut and her mother is Butter Cupp. However, that will not be the common name that I call her. Rather, she will always be my "Promise".
To make a beautiful day even more special, would you believe that as I was milking this evening that I looked out the door and a gentle rain was falling. Yet, I noticed the sun was shining. I stepped away from the cow I was milking and looked up into the sky and there, for the third day in a row, was my rainbow...............................His Promise.
Butter has taught me much, has been my friend, and we have been through some really tough times together. Many times as I milked her I would sit with my head up against her belly and feel her breathing in and out. They rythm was soothing and she seemed to enjoy our time together as much as I did. I hope her final days, whether they be few or many, are peaceful and filled with beautiful rainbows.
(Photo #1 is of ButterCupp and Promise. Photo #2 is of ButterCupp and a bull calf.)